SFP eligibility changes have been taxing the mind, says Victor Chestnutt

The “hot potato” among farmers in Northern Ireland is changes in the rules of land eligibility for claiming SFP.

Managing a farm business to keep on top of regulations is akin to playing a game of football without knowing where the goal posts are.

War has been declared on clumps of whins, rushes, bracken etc, as they are now ineligible. This means many wildlife habitats are being destroyed as farmers try to comply before 1 March bird-nesting deadline.

As discussions start about CAP reform, keeping the flat rate payment low and ensuring meaningful monies are put into schemes for aiding modern equipment to help in animal welfare, new technology or innovations, would go a long way to addressing the active farmer debate.

Locally, site clearance for the long-awaited and much-required new visitors centre for the Giants Causeway world heritage site has begun. With thousands of tonnes of soil trundling along our roads in a convoy of lorries, it leaves local farmers questioning the National Trust and council’s wisdom in moving this more than 15 miles, when a much better approach could have been to investigate local landowners who may have had sites where the soil could have been used to improve the landscape. This would have been more environmentally satisfactory, not to mention the damage being caused to our roads.

As we are registering Montbelliarde-cross calves from the dairy herd, we are having an issue as some calves, which appear to be red at birth, subsequently turning black when they lose their baby hair. I hope our department can make allowances for this.

Thankfully our annual TB and brucellosis tests have been cleared and prices obtained for in-calf suckler heifers averaging £1200 and cull cow prices averaging £140/100kg have been pleasing. The milk price in Northern Ireland is steady at 26p base, with the tail-end of lambs making £4/kg deadweight.




Livestock Farmer Focus: Victor Chestnutt